Last week I ranked the #1 overall draft picks from 2000 to 2009. This week I'm going to dig a little deeper.
Everybody knows about the hits and misses of the first round and how important the first round is to building a franchise; and there's plenty of noise made about late round hits like Marques Colston and Tom Brady; Rarely do we hear about the successful second round picks.
The beauty of the second round draft pick is that usually the player was on teams first round draft boards, only the team passed. The following list of ten players were, one way or another passed, on by every team in NFL at least once.
10. Pick #33 (2006): DeMeco Ryans; Houston Texans - With the number one overall pick the Texans selected Mario Williams, a pass rusher out of NC State, but it was Ryans, a tackles machine out of Alabama who would go on to be the leagues Defensive Rookie of the Year. Ryans followed up his impressive rookie season with an All-Pro selection in 2007, and an impressive 2008. Entering 2009, Ryans had established himself as one of the leagues top tier Middle Linebackers.
09. Pick # 48 (2001): Matt Light; New England Patriots - Drafting offensive linemen can be tricky. Light was the 5th offensive tackle taken in the 2001 draft, yet to this day he's arguably had the best career. A lot of the success for an offensive linemen has to do with how good your other four linemen are, and how good your passer is. Luckily for Light, the Patriots have had lots of talent on the offensive line, and one of the best Quarterbacks of his generation. As a starting offensive lineman, Light has won three super bowls, played in four, went to two pro bowls, and made one All-Pro Team. Though he's beginning to get to that point in the career of a lineman where he breaks down, there aren't many teams in the NFL who wouldn't have loved to have him from 2001 to 2007 (excluding Super Bowl 42).
08. Pick #61 (2001): Shaun Rogers; Detroit Lions - Coming out of the University of Texas, Rogers was heavily regarded as a prospect, but a failure to run at the combine plummeted Rogers to the #61 spot in the draft. Things worked out well for Rogers though, he started every game his rookie season and made the 2005 and 2006. In 2008 the Lions traded him to the Browns, where he excelled in 2008, earning his third Pro Bowl appearance.
07. Pick #36 (2001) Chad Ochocinco; Cincinnati Bengals - Seven wide receivers were taken before Ochocinco (whose name was Johnson at the time). Since 2001, only one; Reggie Wayne, has outperformed Johnson. Although Johnson has had plenty of locker room issues, no one can argue that he's become one of the leagues elite offensive threats; five Pro Bowls and three All Pro teams would back that up.
06. Pick #51 (2002) Clinton Portis; Denver Broncos - Coming out of the University of Miami, Portis was viewed as a legitimate pro talent, however, questions about his work ethic at Miami lead to him falling into the second round. In 2002 Portis would silence his critics while picking up over 1,500 yards on the ground and the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Portis also went to the 2003 and 2008 Pro Bowls. In 2004, Portis was traded from Broncos to the Redskins where he continued to rack up yards. In 2008, Portis' seventh season in the league, he was selected to his first All-Pro team. In 2009, Portis is expected to cross the 10.000 yard career rushing barrier. The sign of a great professional career.
05. Pick #57 (2006) Devin Hester; Chicago Bears - Of all the highly touted prospects in the much lauded 2006 draft, none made a bigger immediate impact in the league than Devin Hester, the KR the Bears drafted out of Miami. In his rookie season Hester made the Pro Bowl, the All-Pro Team, NFC Player of the Month for December, and returned the opening kickoff in Super Bowl XLI for a touchdown. As a rookie Hester returned six touchdowns, an NFL record which Hester would tie in 2007, en route to another Pro Bowl and All-Pro berth. In 2008 the Bears converted Hester to wide receiver where he has had some success. His strength is still as a return specialist.
04. Pick #56 (2003) Osi Umenyiora; New York Giants - In 2003 few would have expected that Osi Umenyiora would become arguably the leagues best pass rusher, but by the end 2007 season Umenyiora was widely considered just that. Although he had no sacks in Super Bowl XLII, Umenyiora and the Giants pass rush were heavily responsible for the Giants victory over the heavily favored Patriots. Umenyiora missed all of 2008 with an injury, but so far in 2009 he's already recorded three sacks.
03. Pick #44 (2004) Bob Sanders; Indianapolis Colts - The Colts played a game of trading down and out of the first round in 2004, but Bill Polian still insists he had his eyes on Bob Sanders, a safety out of Iowa the whole time. Sanders would go to the Pro Bowl in 2005, also earning an All Pro selection, while guiding the Colts defense to it's first respectable season since the mid 1990's. In 2006, Sanders would miss much of the year, but that didn't matter because come playoff time, Sanders was completely healthy as he lead the Colts defense to one of the most impressive runs in recent playoff history, including a victory in Super Bowl XLI, which Sanders had the game clinching interception in. 2007 would feature a healthy Sanders once again dominating en route to another Pro Bowl, another All-Pro selection, and the leagues Defensive Player of the Year award. Injuries have haunted Sanders since, but he is still regarded as one of the leagues best and most feared defensive players. If he could stay healthy.
02. Pick #54 (2003) Anquan Boldin; Arizona Cardinals - In 2003 the Cardinals used their first round draft pick to acquire wide receiver Bryant Johnson out of Penn St. The league then used it's #54 pick in the second round to select Anquan Boldin, a receiver out of Florida State thought to complement Johnson, as a third or fourth option. That never sat well with Boldin as would win the 2003 Rookie of the Year award, and go to the Pro Bowl in 2003, 2006, and 2008. So far in his career Boldin has caught over 40 touchdowns, and helped the Arizona Cardinals to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
01. Pick #32 (2001) Drew Brees; San Diego Chargers - In the last draft before the league expanded to 32 teams, the Chargers used the first pick of the second round to select QB Drew Brees out of Purdue, a player many had projected to go in the mid first round. Brees' career would start slow, but in 2004 he would break out, leading the Chargers back to the playoffs for the first time since 1995. Brees would be selected to the Pro Bowl in 2004 and 2005, before heading to New Orleans as a free agent for 2006. In 06 Brees would lead the Saints to the conference championship game, the furthest the franchise had ever advanced in the playoffs. Brees would earn Pro Bowl berths again in 2006 and 2008; the season in which Brees challenged almost every major passing record in NFL history. Today, Brees is widely considered one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL.
That's debatable; but I'll save it for a later day. For now, Brees is my #1 second round draft choice of the decade.
Note: How about that 2001 Draft's 2nd round?